Communicating For Leadership Effectiveness

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These Speaking Skills are a Must for Modern Leaders

Recently as I was browsing through my newsfeed on LinkedIn, a post by Adit Rahim caught my eye. Prompted by his experience at a recent conference, he asked, “Are we effective speakers? Or are people just listening to us because they have no choice?[1] ”

His post made me wonder, too. Are today’s leaders able to communicate effectively? Do today’s leaders effectively convey their ideas, instructions, vision, and concerns to their teams? How many leaders talk at their employees rather than with them?

These are questions every leader should be asking because successful leadership requires guiding others toward the achievement of shared goals.

Effective leadership requires effective communication.

In Business Mentor: Developing Leadership Skills for Better Employee Engagement, Armando Bartolome quotes former Apple CEO Gil Amelio, writing that “if a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”

A leader’s strength comes from the strength of his or her team and the ability to muster that strength. Yet, a recent article in CIO, 6 Executive Communication Tips for C-Suite Success by Sarah K. White, notes that sometimes strong employees are promoted to leadership positions without having mastered the requisite communication skills to best handle the job.

These bosses talk, but fail to communicate. Staff members may hear the words, but not the message. This lack of communication can lead to failed initiatives, lost productivity, and low morale.


That all sounds pretty bad.

What about you?

Are you in a leadership position?

Are you harnessing the full power of your team?

Improving your communication skills to empower your organization.

If you’ve never received formal training in public speaking, management communications, or active listening, you may be missing a key component for leadership success.

Fortunately, we can fix that.

While there are many ways to improve your communication skills, one fun and fast way to do so is to practice professional speaking.

How can studying professional speaking help? I may be a bit biased (Hi, I’m Kit, professional speaker and communication instructor), but many of the traits you learn to speak on stage are important off stage too.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Credible storytelling -- This article on internal communication strategies by Brandon Rigoni and Jim Asplund, writing for Gallup’s Business Journal, says that your credibility matters when sharing information. Storytelling plays an important role as well.

Hmm… authenticity and storytelling. Where have I heard those elements mentioned before

Active listening -- Listening to your audience is just as important as speaking to them. Harvard Business Review’s Rebecca Knight emphasizes the importance of being a good listener in How to Work with a Bad Listener.

You can’t engage someone’s attention if you have no idea what interests them. The way to learn about someone else is through active listening.

Focused communication -- In casual conversations it is okay to let the discussion go in any direction. But a professional speech needs to begin with a final destination, or point, in mind and each part of that speech should move the audience toward that destination. Likewise, leaders must communicate the end goal to their team.

This isn’t as easy as it seems. Professional speakers learn to move a story along and to use language that is clear and understandable.

Let’s connect and communicate.

Use these tips and, hopefully, you’ll never end up as the example of what not to do in someone’s LinkedIn post. If you’d like to see my daily tips and advice about professional communications and networking, follow me on LinkedIn!

Speaking Methods Of The Masters: How Famous People Engage And Inspire

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Have you ever met someone who spoke so well that you wanted to hear whatever they had to say just because they were saying it?  Great speakers can do that. Their voices, the rhythm of their words, their gestures and facial expressions, and even the settings in which they’re speaking all come together to make people want to listen.

Don’t get me wrong, saying something that is meaningful and beneficial to your audience is important. But it takes more than that to deliver a message that truly resonates. In past articles, I’ve written about several of these components that come together to create a masterful presentation.

Great speakers deliver their words with enthusiasm, empathy, honesty, power, lyricism, and warmth.

In this article, I’m inviting you to take a closer look with me at some great speakers --from the past and present-- as I identify the methods they have used to bring their speeches to life.

How Great Speakers Do What They Do

Seth Godin goes all in to give each audience his best.

In Treating your talk as a gift, the author, entrepreneur, and veteran TED talk presenter, Seth Godin, tells aspiring speakers to focus on serving their audience. He writes that “the best talks work when they open doors and turn on lights for the audience… it’s about them, not the speaker’s experience.” Godin conveys his passion for his subject and engages his audience by turning up the energy.

Winston Churchill led listeners to his conclusion.

Winston Churchill is said to have won over listeners by using a combination of complex parallelism and simple language. As the article, His Speeches: How Churchill Did It, explains, while the structure of his speeches were often formal, he carefully chose each word to convey the clearest of meanings. He spoke deliberately and with a power behind his words.

Maya Angelou made words form a melody.

The renowned poet and speaker, Maya Angelou was a master at crafting the written word. She used her skills to create visual images that stirred the hearts of her audience. In her article, Inspiration from Maya Angelou, Denise Graveline of The Eloquent Woman describes how Angelou’s use of “poetic rhythms, modulated tones and vocal emphasis” drew her audience in and inspired them.

Angelou’s words are honest and speak to the heart of her experience and the experiences of her listeners. She carried them with her on a spoken journey as if she were singing them a song.

Barack Obama keeps his voice under control.

Carmine Gallo, author of The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch on and Others Don’t, writes that like Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and other famous speakers, Barack Obama had the master touch. Gallo points out three of Obama’s most common devices for crafting memorable speech in Barack Obama: A Master Class in Public Speaking.

Gallo writes that, among other techniques, Obama uses voice modulation and pacing to maintain his audience’s attention. Sometimes it is not our words, but our silence that draws a listener to linger. Pausing for impact and allowing time for your words to be fully absorbed is a powerful rhetorical device that you can use too.

Catherine Storing invites her audience to join her.

I want to wrap up my summary of speakers and their methods by highlighting the work of my friend, Catherine Storing. Catherine is a wonderful storyteller who helps others bring their books to life as a writing coach. She recently gave a speech titled Gain the Confidence to Be the Real You at Inbound 17 that I promise you won’t regret watching.

Catherine engages her audience with warmth and openness, using her words, expressions, and gestures to invite her audience to share her enthusiasm for her topic.

A Little Speaking Student Homework

Now that you are aware of some of the ways great speakers manage to deliver their messages, take some time to review the work of some of your favorite speakers. See if you recognize them using common rhetorical devices. Do they respond to their audience’s reactions?

Watch several speeches by the same presenter. How does that person change his or her style and presentation to suit different audiences or contexts?

Then, decide how you’ll use what you’ve observed and learned to make your next speech your best one yet!

How Studying Professional Speaking Can Up Your Sales Game

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If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen me quote sales legends, such as Zig Ziglar, David Ogilvy, and Dale Carnegie. As a professional speaker, I’m inspired by the standards they set for communicating with their customers. These industry leaders knew that communication is at the core of successful selling.  

A great salesperson knows how to talk and listen in a way that makes people not only take notice but also take action.

In her article, 13 Communication Skills That are Crucial to Sales Success, HubSpot’s Leslie Ye explores this topic in detail, writing that “the root of sales success is the ability to gather and provide information in a way that makes a prospect want to do business with you.”

That sounds a lot like what a great public speaker does!

When I teach a seminar or give a keynote speech, my goal is to provide actionable information. To do that, I have to make sure I’m not just talking to the room but that my message is being received. Communication isn’t effective unless it makes that connection.

So how do professional speakers like me make that connection?

We craft carefully thought out and practiced communications. Through seminars, speakers forums, and practice, speakers develop the skills that allow them to connect with their  audiences.

That’s why studying professional speaking can make a good salesperson even better. A salesperson who knows the product and customer becomes a triple-threat once he or she also knows how to communicate like a pro.

Here are a some of the speaking talents that will up anyone’s sales game:

Confidence and authenticity -- Imagine how easy it will be to speak to a single customer or prospect once you’ve mastered sharing your story with a whole group of strangers. Improving your speaking skills can help you overcome the natural nervousness most people feel when asked to make a presentation before strangers. As you become a better speaker, you’ll also become a more authentic communicator.

Body language and situational awareness -- An important part of learning to speak in front of an audience is self-awareness. A speaker needs to be able to use motions and gestures to complement their speech, not distract from it. To be truly comfortable onstage, you have to be in control but not self-conscious. That skill takes a little practice.

Voice modulation and control -- When you speak, your voice becomes an instrument that communicates not just the spoken words but also emotion and emphasis. Like an instrument, you can adjust your rhythm and tone to enhance your presentation. Learning to recognize your off-notes is another one of the skills professional speaking develops.

Story crafting -- Talking is an ability, storytelling is an art. Professional speakers learn to encourage and inspire by telling a great story. Sales professionals who can tell a compelling story with their customer as the star have the map to success.

If you’d like to learn some of these pro speaker skills, I have a great offer for you. Every month, BostonSpeaks offers a free online master class. Yup, go pro for free. You can find all the details at BostonSpeaks.com. See you there!

5 Ways You Can Generate Income as a Professional Speaker

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You may remember that in a previous article, I mentioned getting paid to talk. Are you ready to find out how?

In this article, I’m going to tell you about five different ways you can earn income from professional speaking. And, I have great news for you--you don’t have to choose just one!

Once you launch your professional speaking career, you can develop several revenue streams that allow you to pursue a career you enjoy and still pay the bills.

So where does the money come from?

Here’s my list of five ways you can generate income as a professional speaker:

1. Keynotes, conference presentations, and personal platforms.

This is probably the job most people envision when they think of a professional speaker. Speakers in these fields are paid based on their expertise and ability to draw attendees to an event. If you are a keynote or conference presenter, you’ll be paid a fee for your time.

If you are a personal platform speaker like Tony Robbins, you are the event. Attendees pay to see you on stage and hear what you have to say. Headlining and hosting your own event represents the pinnacle of success for many professional speakers. Not only are you the star of the show, but you can also sell merchandise and other services to your audience.

2. Speaking as a day job.

Some organizations employ professional speakers as brand advocates or ambassadors instead of just drawing names out of a hat when they need to send a representative to make a presentation. I’m just kidding, some of my good friends are called upon to speak on behalf of their organizations and do a great job.

But, often a non-profit or large organization wants a dedicated staffer to serve as the their primary storyteller. For example, Miri Rodriguez serves in this role at Microsoft.

3. The leader of the class.

Some speakers present full instructional seminars either alone or with a group of other speakers. This role is similar to that of a keynote speaker but usually takes more time and requires a more detailed presentation. It is a lot like hosting your own event, except someone else is paying to rent the space.

This is a great gig if you enjoy sharing information and teaching but not managing the logistics of organizing an event.

4. Packaging your knowledge and expertise.

Many speakers are able to develop multiple revenue streams by creating different forms of content based on their knowledge and expertise. For example, if you know a lot about creating great user experiences, you might be asked to speak about UX at a digital marketing conference. But, then you’ve only shared your knowledge with the conference attendees.

If you expand on that information to create an e-book, webinar, course, or podcast, then you can share your knowledge with more individuals and earn ongoing income from your product sales.   

5. Share your knowledge live and in-person.

Not every professional speaking gig has to be before a large audience. Personal coaching, consulting, and other smaller knowledge sharing venues are a good way to stay busy and continue to earn income between bigger speaking gigs.

I love speaking before a crowd, but it is also very satisfying to help a single individual reach his or her goals by providing coaching and other services. Being able to take some time off the speaking circuit and meet with clients one-on-one lets me enjoy the best of both worlds--and you can too.

You Do You

These are just a few of the ways that professional speakers generate income. But they aren’t the only ways. It seems like there are new innovations and opportunities popping up every day. So don’t be afraid to try something new. Who knows? You might have the next great idea! Be yourself, value yourself, and enjoy the rewards of being professional speaker.

Networking and Marketing Your Professional Speaking Brand Using Social Media

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Personal branding. Have you heard this phrase yet? According to Wikipedia, the term has been around since at least 1997. But the concept has been around longer than that. People have written about establishing your individual brand--or marketing image--since the 1930s.

What is personal branding?

Personal branding--or self-positioning--is what you do when the product you are selling is you. For example, as a professional speaker, I need to be able to market my services by presenting a clear and consistent message telling potential clients what I have to offer. I need to be able to communicate my unique value proposition.

My personal brand isn’t a fake version of me created just for marketing. I’m still representing the real me--just coherently. No matter where someone encounters me, online or off, I want them to have a clear idea of who I am.

That’s my personal brand.

If you are planning to be a professional speaker, you should have a personal brand too.

Why am I telling you about having a personal brand?

I’m telling you about personal branding because it is this professional image that you’ll use to network and market your services through social media.

Ah, see? That’s where I was headed--how to market your professional speaking services using social media!

Now let’s discover how you can use social media to present your brand to the world.

To begin promoting yourself as a professional speaker on social media, you first need to choose your channels. There are a lot of places where you can post about yourself and your business. But my advice is to select just a few venues and focus your efforts there. You can always expand or change your focus later if your goals or your audience changes.

When you consider which channels to use, consider your own preferences and your audience’s likely hangouts.

Think about where you go to look for advice and feedback about your speaking topics; those are probably the best places to reach your audience, too.

Personally, I love using Facebook for marketing. I enjoy the flexibility the platform offers. I can post links, messages, and even webcast live videos. However, not everyone who might be a candidate for my services is going to find me on Facebook. So I don’t limit myself to just posting content there.

My clients include trade groups, business associations, and individual professionals. These audiences can be found on Linkedin. Because my audience is using Linkedin, I have to be active on Linkedin too.

I also share content and post about upcoming events on Twitter. Twitter allows me to reach people quickly, even while an event is taking place. Other potential places to share include Instagram, Quora, and niche forums such as Inbound.org or private Slack channels.

Social media isn’t the same as paid advertising.

I recommend that you TAG your way to success on social media by being Thoughtful, Authentic, and Generous.

You can’t engage your audience if you use your social media accounts as billboards for your personal commercials. People don’t visit social media sites to see ads. And, people really aren’t that interested in seeing posts that only talk about the poster. Boring! A lot of individuals and brands miss this point.

Yes, tell people about yourself and let them get to know you. But remember to keep the focus on your audience. Think about who follows your social feed and if someone else’s content can benefit your followers, share it!  Share information that is useful, entertaining, or educational. Give people a reason to want to follow your social media feed and to share your content with their friends and colleagues.

Then, now and then, let people know that you are available to speak. Keep them updated on upcoming events and genuinely share the professional speaking part of your life.  

Share Your Brand Through Authentic Social Engagement

It takes time to build relationships in real life and online. There are already plenty of people who promote content at their audience. Be a stand-out by sharing content with your audience.  If you invest the time, you’ll grow a strong network of connections who understand what you have to offer and see your value.